Once again, we talked to 10 of the hottest artists who are climbing the charts, breaking the Internet or just dominating our office stereos. This month: LunchMoney Lewis' everydude pop, recent Billboard Hot 100 addition Tori Kelly, the mysterious Chicago rap crew Goodbye Tomorrow, lo-fi punks Hinds and more.
Sounds Like: Something between Southern soul, Miami bass and Randy Newman
For Fans of: Cee Lo Green, Aloe Blacc, Solange
Why You Should Pay Attention: The everyman vibe and retro feel of his quirky single "Bills" — currently on its way to 2 million views on YouTube — should speak for itself. If not: The Miami-bred, L.A.-stationed songwriter, 27, is signed to Dr. Luke's Kemosabe imprint; he got a feature on Nicki Minaj's The Pinkprint ("Trini Dem Girls") as a virtual unknown; cowrote songs for Jessie J ("Burnin' Up") and Fifth Harmony ("Bo$$"); and, yes, has one of the best stage names in the current pop landscape. He says producer Salaam Remi gave it to him as a kid: "He was getting a haircut and I was hanging out with him. And he was like, 'Yo, if I was a little chubby dude, I'd call myself LunchMoney.' Everybody started laughing, and it kind of just stuck." Though no release date is set, his debut album, executive produced by Wallpaper.'s Ricky Reed, is nearing completion.
He Says: Though "Bills" gets by on its world-weary, working-stiff lyrics, it actually came from a place of youthful fear: Lewis never held a steady job before and the real world came crashing down fast. "I had just moved to L.A., officially, got my apartment and stuff, and I was like, 'Man, I got a light bill I gotta pay, I got wi-fi, I gotta put food on the fridge.' I just got my deal, I was like, 'All right. Time to hustle.' No more calling home and being like, 'Ma, can I just hold like 80 more dollars?' That was the energy I was in. 'Ahhh! I got bills!'"
Hear for Yourself: "Bills" has already gone to Number One in Australia and, with any luck, might end up the "16 Tons" for the Spotify generation. Christopher R. Weingarten
Sounds Like: An all-female Ramones, if they spent more time in the sunshine.
For Fans of: Mac DeMarco, Vivian Girls, TacocaT
Why You Should Pay Attention: After a marathon SXSW (16 shows in all), Madrid-based Hinds are on pretty much everyone's radar thanks to their hyper-energetic, elegantly sloppy garage-pop. Fronted by 23-year-olds Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote, the all-female four-piece admits they're still learning their instruments, but the exuberance that defines their live shows can't be taught. Mixing super-lo-fi guitar chugging with effervescent vocal harmonies, they're what it would sound like if a Sixties girl-group was born in a Nineties Seattle basement. Though they only have a pair of EPs out, Hinds plan to record their first full-length next month, just as soon as they get done touring the U.S.
They Say: "We used to listen to more American music," says Cosials. "We really need a new playlist for our lives because we've been listening to the same albums for, like, a whole year. We need more. Right now we've been listening to Mac DeMarco, Shannon and the Clams, the Black Lips and the Velvet Underground. But we really need new inspiration, you know?"
Hear for Yourself: "Castigadas En El Granero" — one of four tracks on the band's site — translates to "punished in the barn." Cady Drell
Sounds Like: An all-ages dance club
For Fans of: Lauryn Hill, Stripped-era Christina Aguilera, Ariana Grande
Why You Should Pay Attention: Tori Kelly's single "Nobody Love" has got a bounce to it, blending Nineties R&B with pop-radio friendly EDM beats. After establishing herself on the internet by uploading acoustic covers of popular songs like Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You," Kelly found the perfect audience for her catchy, soulful originals. Her webcam days have long been over since Scooter Braun became her manager — she's since gotten a deal with Capitol Records and an opening spot at Ed Sheeran's sold out Madison Square Garden show. Kelly's as-yet-untitled major label debut is due this summer and will be executive produced by hitmaker Max Martin.
She Says: "I would hope that my music can inspire people and stand out in a way that is really just me pouring my heart out into my music. If nothing else, there are no gimmicks. There's nothing that's fake. Everything I'm doing is just me being me. I hope that would inspire other people in some way, in whatever they're doing in their lives."
Hear for Yourself: The infectious "Nobody Love" has garnered more than a million YouTube plays and is currently at Number 80 on the Hot 100. Brittany Spanos
Sounds Like: Low-end bass rumble infiltrated by dagger-sharp, aggro wordplay
For Fans of: Kanye West, Childish Gambino, Drake
Why You Should Pay Attention: It's only a matter of time before we're rewarded with the identity of this Chicago rapper and his collaborative cohorts. For now, Goodbye Tomorrow remains a mystery. "If we focus on the core content, the arc of everything, you get the truth," says the philosophical rapper. "That's all I'm trying to do." Signed to Rostrum Records (who discovered Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller), the Windy City collective, principally comprised of the rapper and one key producer ("I hate when people say movement but that's the only way I can describe it," the rapper says), have released two tracks to date: "100K" and the the electro-tinged, trunk-rattling "Jay Z," the latter coming complete with a trippy video that's already racked up over 100,000 views on YouTube.
They Say: "It's exciting to me to see people fuck with us just off these two songs," the rapper says."'Jay Z' and '100K,' that's a very, very small percentage of the overall picture. The tip of the iceberg. There is so much different stuff that hasn't even been showcased yet. We're just trying to do some cool shit every day."
Hear for Yourself: The rapper spits over pummeling bass on breakout single, "Jay Z." Dan Hyman
Sounds Like: Deafheaven doing some moon-bathing.
For Fans of: Darkthrone, Slint, headbanging while shoegazing.
Why You Should Pay Attention: Despite rarely playing shows and even more rarely doing interviews, Bay Area, California's Bosse-De-Nage have managed to cultivate a healthy buzz around their mix of corpse-paint-peeling black metal and cardigan-unraveling Nineties indie rock, which vocalist Bryan Manning colorfully describes as sounding like "the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing machine and an umbrella." A 2012 split EP with friends and aesthetic kinsmen Deafheaven raised their profile, but Bosse-De-Nage's new full-length and finest hour yet, All Fours, released on tastemaking metal boutique label Profound Lore, should firmly establish them as one of heavy music's most intriguing voices.
They Say: "When we started this band, we agreed that we only wanted to play on special occasions with other like-minded bands. We've all previously played in bands who took any show that came along and that often meant playing a set in front of another group of bands waiting to play after us for their girlfriends," Manning says of Bosse-De-Nage's infrequent live performances. "The worst show we played was in the Netherlands on a very short European tour we did in 2013. The show took place on Queen's Day, which is a huge celebration across the Netherlands. Sort of like every American drinking holiday rolled into one. The town was swarming with parties and drunken teenagers. Hardly anyone was interested in going to a metal show, so we played to handful of people. It was basically the type of show I just mentioned."
Hear for Yourself: Buzzing-bee riffs dive through major-keyed smoke trails on "A Subtle Change," six minutes of Bosse-De-Nage at their most straightforward — which is to say, not straightforward at all. Brandon Geist
Sounds Like: The Death Grips of gospel torching the South's dark underbelly.
For Fans of: TV On The Radio, Nick Cave, Kanye West
Why You Should Pay Attention: Tucked inside D'Angelo's 2000 masterpiece Voodoo was rapper-poet Saul Williams' furious liner notes taking aim at the state of black music. ("Most of my peers seem to idolize Donald Trump more than Sly Stone," Williams wrote.) A Georgia State University student named Franklin James Fisher pasted those words on his wall and never forgot them. In the mid-aughts, Fisher linked up with ex-classmates with post-punk leanings, Lee Tesche and Ryan Mahan, and pieced together Algiers based upon the parallel energies of punk and gospel traditions. "Both types of music come from dispossessed populations and marginalized populations," Fisher says. "We decided to follow that down as far as we possibly could." In 2012 and 2013, they released "Blood" and "Claudette," biting singles that combine Blind Boys of Alabama-style vocals and harmonies, and beastly, bent-metal beats. At that point, Matador Records had heard enough to be enthralled, and booked Algiers to record at 4AD Studios with Tom Morris (Bloc Party, Lydia Lunch) in London. Drinking "sort of like a hot toddy," Fisher punched in his vocals late at night with the lights down low. The results are spiritual, political and confrontational. Algiers will open on Interpol's spring tour, and later do dates supporting their self-titled album, expected this summer.
They Say: "I still don't consider myself a singer," says Fisher. "I appreciate the aesthetic of just really not caring — not trying to sound pretty. Especially if you're angry, just shout it out. Any sort of traditional negro spiritual music, gospel music, soul or R&B, the best versions were when they were just raw and emotional and not overly produced. In every genre across the board in popular music, things are way too packaged, way too smooth. It's not even human anymore. Everything on the radio is Auto-Tuned. The edges are all trimmed. We want things to be rough around the edges. That's something to embrace…. Bob Dylan made it okay not to have a traditionally nice voice. In the black community, the standard is really high as to who can be called a singer. That's why I'm so hesitant to call myself a singer. My sisters are both amazing singers. I just kinda scream and do my thing."
Hear for Yourself: Algiers build a terrordome where Fisher can shred his larynx on "But She Was Not Flying." Reed Fischer
Sounds Like: The Afro-Cuban diaspora, filtered through contemporary trip-hop and the uncanny harmonies of twin sisters
For Fans of: James Blake, CocoRosie, FKA Twigs
Why You Should Pay Attention: Twins Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz moved to Paris from their native Cuba as small children. They never stopped living with their artistic heritage, though — their late father, famed percussionist, Angá Díaz played with acts like Buena Vista Social Club. After a few live performances together around Paris, their take on Afro-Cuban rhythms, Yoruba chanting and contemporary hip-hop, electronic and lounge attracted the heads of XL Recordings. Four months after their first big show in Paris, they scored a deal. Four months after that, they had finished their self-titled debut album with producer Richard Russell, released earlier this year. Now, less than a year from the beginning, they've just played a spate of lauded performances at SXSW and are finishing their first U.S. tour.
They Say: Part of their debut in the U.S. includes the opportunity to educate new audiences about the various roots of Cuban music. "Our music is Cuban, but it's Yoruban," says Naomi. "It's not salsa."
"For people, when you say you're Cuban, they just visualize cigars, rum and salsa," says Lisa-Kaindé, as Naomi finishes her sentence simultaneously and laughs. "Yoruba is from Nigeria, and when the slaves were shipped to Cuba their culture remained. So we are just explaining to people why we are singing in an African language."
Each time they do so, they revisit intimate memories of their father and their late older sister, Yanira, who died in 2013. "Ibeyi," the album, is an homage to them, say the sisters, but revisiting feelings about them onstage every night feels positive. "I think it's our way to feel good about it, and to talk about them, and I think we needed it," says Lisa-Kaindé. "No really, it feels good!"
Hear for Yourself: "River" mixes unmistakably Afro-Caribbean dipping melodies with slowly rattling, Portishead-style beats — and ends with a chant to Yoruba deity Oshun. Arielle Castillo
Sounds Like: Drifting between EDM and punk tents at a festival.
For Fans of: Animal Collective, the Prodigy, Suicide
Why You Should Pay Attention: The brainchild of Montreal electronic-music experimentalist Airick Woodhead, Doldrums never sounds like any one thing: serene bliss on one song, an epileptic nightmare on another, an EDM moshpit here, ADHD electro confusion there. Woodhead spent the last two years conceiving the group's latest, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, collaborating with Björk and Prodigy producer Damian Taylor and Weezer engineer Shawn Everett. It's a sound he fine-tuned while playing performance-art spaces, like Montreal's the Torn Curtain, where he could get away with anything. "My music wouldn't have worked in clubs or bars right away and I had to adjust a lot musically when I started touring," he says. "DIY spaces and communities are breeding grounds for creativity."
The one thing that connects the songs and their many styles is pads of fuzzy synth, which he says are spillover from his days as a guitarist. "Well when I started playing music I was listening to bands like the Verve, Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine and stuff, playing guitar with lots of effects," he says. "I wanted to keep doing that while moving beyond the guitar, so I started using a sampler. I'd like to be as articulate and expressive with a sampler as with a guitar."
He Says: "One time at the Torn Curtain, there was a big night, mostly the after-hours type of crowd. Most of the night would be DJs which keep everyone happy, but me and a couple of the other guys who lived there went on did a kind of electronics-and-drums live improv noise set. I guess it started pissing off some people.
"This huge Juggalo-type guy in a suit right up front starts yelling at me and trying to get my attention while I'm playing. I thought, 'Shit, this guy is gonna clobber me.' I was already pretty high on mushrooms and I had a baseball bat onstage, just for peace of mind, so I felt pretty safe. So I just bring him up on stage and give him some drumsticks and get him banging on the drums while I bat someone's shoes into the audience. And he had a great time! It's like, you want to create chaos with your shows but bring people into it rather than push them away."
Hear for Yourself: Doldrums' cool-as-a-cucumber, anything-can-happen dance-floor stomper "Hotfoot" perfectly shows off Woodhead's penchant for psychedelic brooding and electronic explosions. By Kory Grow
For Fans of: Alison Krauss, Bonnie Raitt, the Dixie Chicks
Why You Should Pay Attention: This four-woman band (started in Boston, but now spread across New Hampshire, Nashville and Brooklyn) scored a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album two years ago for This World Oft Can Be. Now, working with producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Norah Jones), they've expanded their sonic palette and slowed down the pace on Della Mae (out May 12th), even delivering a great, soulful cover of the Rolling Stones' "No Expectations."
They Say: Woodsmith says the band thrives on the road due to the kindness of fans — staying at their homes, eating their home-cooked meals and accepting their invitations to go whitewater rafting. "Success for us looks like being able to be on the road 100 days a year and then live the lives we want back home. Not extravagant. I don't need a million dollars."
Hear for Yourself: "Empire" is a fiddle-fried piece of postcolonial feminism. Gavin Edwards
Sounds Like: Late-night, "Wait, let me load YouTube" party cuts that eventually have the whole room singing along
For Fans of: Chance the Rapper, Danny Brown, 2 Chainz
Why You Should Pay Attention: Though BK Bambino has been rapping since age six, the Chicago native didn't begin taking it seriously until a high-school shoulder injury set back his chances of playing quarterback in college. Then again, "serious" isn't a word that most would associate with the 20-year-old MC: Bambino's bars are usually playful, and his most recent music video finds him terrorizing his hometown while dressed as a bearded, overweight cop. This winter, he used the money saved working at a car dealership to move to Los Angeles, where he's working on a mixtape produced partially by D Phelps, the frequent Vic Mensa collaborator who contributed production to Kanye West's forthcoming LP.
He Says: "Since the song was so fun to make, we felt that the video should have the same type of vibe — show people character. I'm big into Martin Lawrence, and there was a character on Martin, an officer or whatever, and basically we tried to reenact his whole thing. I like putting on a show. I want my shows to be plays — actors and all of that on the stage. That sheriff costume can be like my Kanye Graduation bear.
Hear for Yourself: "Sheriff" opens with a distorted riff that Phelps recorded on Voice Memo ("I said, 'Bro, that's about to be terrible'") and comes together when crystal-clear piano chords float over the hook. Bambino plays it just right, wilding out but never losing the beat.